One of the most mysterious factors of Local Online Marketing continues to be that of Google+ Local Reviews. We all know how important they are and we know that our clients need lots of them. But how do we get them? Better yet, how do we get qualified reviews?
I guess that first we need to demystify and understand what Google+ reviews are and what they do before we go too much further.
Google reviews are the products of hard work and sacrifice. Back in the old days when Google Places was the king of local online marketing and Google Maps was THE place to be, the old reviewing system didn’t seem to make much difference when it came to ranking in any particular spot in the old “7 pack.” While people utilized the review system on a regular basis, it was prone to abuse. Anybody could leave a review and as many of them as they wanted. Also, back in the day, you didn’t need a Google account to post a review and because of this, many businesses and people filled their Google Places listings with as many reviews as possible, both real and fake… OK, mostly fake. Reviews could be purchased in bulk from SEO agencies and reputation management firms and because the reviews were rarely if ever monitored by Google (some would disagree with me on this. I would say to them, “look at how Google handles them now as opposed to a year and a half ago.”), a quagmire of spam reviews began to fill Google Places. Google Places users begin to notice a large increase in bad reviews for their businesses and some resourceful business owners even did their own investigating as to which one of their competitors may be to blame. All of a sudden, placing negative Google Places reviews on competitor listings began to be used as a “black hat” tactic to drive business away. And it worked. Google reviews were becoming a very real hindrance for those small businesses trying to market themselves in Google Maps and I have had many clients tell me that they are fearful and/or leery at the thought of getting reviews on Google.
Fast forward to the roll out of Google+ Local back in 2012. All Internet marketers should know by now that Google is in the business of getting their users the most qualified information available when they make a search. Part of this process involves pulling and utilizing data from all over Google’s indexes and presenting them to the end user depending on the search query. Many of the places Google looks for information include indexed websites, local business listings such as Yahoo Local and Bing Places and numerous other online resources that have a high relation and relevance to where the search was being made and for what. You also need to understand that Google is trying to become sentient and in order to get you the best search results possible, Google decided to tap into where real information comes from… the actual users. With the huge success of business reviewing websites such as Yelp!, Google has revamped their review system to stay competitive and to even help bolster your Internet search experience.
When you use Google or Yelp! to review a local business, you are doing something that Google loves: you are engaging with users and businesses using real emotion, experience, and knowledge. This is Google’s life blood! Because real reviews represent real user engagement, no amount of on-page SEO can compare to the importance of a well-written and well placed business review. In fact, Google+ Local reviews can mean the difference between ranking on page one or page two in the SERPs. Just take it from Myles Anderson at Search Engine Land. Earlier this year, Mr. Anderson posted this column that, to many people, is a real eye opener and, in addition to this rather lengthy blog post by Local Visibility System, can help you understand just how important Google reviews are.
The answer to this question is very simple: provide top quality customer service and be better than the other guy. Easy, right? As a small business owner you know that you can’t please them all and the fact of the matter is that people really only review a business or service when something goes wrong. Anger over bad service can turn an otherwise docile consumer into a raging bag of hatred and the review section of Google+ and Yelp! (pretty much anywhere a public comment can be left) is often the very first place that these irate customers go to blow off steam. When somebody experiences great service at a small business, getting a positive review out of them can be like pulling teeth because once they’re content with your service, they tend to emotionally shut down any further thoughts of your business until 1) they decide to use your services again or 2) somebody else tells them something bad about your business. So the issue is: how do you get your happy customers to leave a good review? Well, there is no easy answer to this. Some business owners simply ask for a review but that only goes as far as how long your customer actually remembers to do so once they get home. Do you send out monthly newsletters? Put a link to your Google+ Local Page in the signature with a simple request to review your business. A monthly reminder can go a long way in getting people to actually engage with your Google+ Local Page and may be all that you need to do. Do you have friends and family? There is nothing wrong with them leaving your business a good review and they can even recruit others to do the same. Remember, word of mouth is often free and can help if nothing else works.
Do you utilize your website to get reviews? Creating a “Social Media and Reviews” landing page in your website where visitors get clear instructions on what you want them to do can really help get you results. In addition, I use Microsoft Word to create a simple flyer with a QR code that smartphone and tablet users can scan to get them to your “Social Media and Reviews” page. I then tell my clients that every single customer gets a flyer and everybody who walks into the business gets a flyer. Everybody gets a flyer. To see an example of a “Social Media and Reviews” page, click here… and +1 the page while you’re at it! ;)*
There are countless other ways to get people to review your business on Google+ and the best place to start is by clicking HERE.
On a side note, DO NOT entice your customers to review your business using deals, coupons, special offers, or money. Google makes billions of dollars per year and it isn’t below them to investigate your business and profiles looking for paid reviews. Just imagine spending countless hours getting lots of reviews only to have a Google plant out your practices and penalize your website and Google+ Local Page. And you thought an irate customer was bad enough…
* I must give John Seal credit for this idea as he was the one who opened my eyes to this great approach. It works but only if your client will participate in it. Make sure to coach your clients on how important it is to get good Google reviews and teach them how to do it ethically and responsibly.